One of my major concerns for MMA in 2009 is what will happen to women's MMA. I suspect by 2010 the MMA community will have a better much sense of women's MMA trajectory for at least the forseeable future. Will it blossom to the point where there are robust divisions featured in national spotlight or will this continue to be mostly the Gina Carano show? The answer is no one really knows at this juncture, but for those concerned about the fate of women's MMA it's encouraging to see prominent regional promotions across the country still have a place for them.
Above is a promo video the UWC has put together for the female fight on the UWC: Man O' War card on February 21st. There are a few notable features to this fight that are worth articulating. While there is no larger message to this point, both women are making their pro debuts (Herrig, however, has a background in western kickboxing where she was quite accomplished). Both women also come from respectable camps as Herrig is with Matt Hughes' H.I.T. Squad in Granite City, Illinois and Achhal from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Sterling, VA. Most interestingly, Achhal is a Moroccan immigrant who fled her home country to escape an arranged marriage. As the son of an immigrant mother, I can only imagine what sort of grit and focus Achhal has to pesevere in a foreign country, but something seems awfully fitting she chose MMA as a career outlet. I can also say that in terms of media interest, this fight seems to be getting the mainstream's attention, so perhaps that is a signal women's MMA will find meaningful growth in the coming months.
Disclosure: I am an employee of UWC, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I would like to point out, though, that I desperately want MMA to be successful in Washington, D.C. I am fortunate enough to have resources to potentially affect that growth and success, so I choose to make use of them. I have witnessed the development on MMA in DC since 2004 and, by far, the UWC is our best hope for having a meaningful professional organization call DC home. My goal is to grow MMA in this area and in the UWC, I have found a product that has the capability to do it well.
Full press release after the jump.
Ultimate Warrior Challenge Brings Women's Mixed Martial Arts to Washington, D.C.
Felice Herrig vs Iman Achhal Make Pro Debuts as UWC: MAN "O" WAR Hits the Patriot Center on February 21st
Washington D.C. -- The Ultimate Warrior Challenge (UWC) announced today the signing of a fight between national women's champion kickboxer Felice Herrig and local fighting sensation Iman Achhal. The 120 pound fight will take place at UWC 5: MAN "O" WAR, which will be held February 21st, 2009 at the George Mason University Patriot Center Arena in Fairfax, VA.
Both women will be making their professional MMA debuts.
Felice "Lil' Bulldog" Herrig is a champion kickboxer with an 18-2-1 record, holding multiple national titles from both the IKF and the W.A.K.O. She trains MMA with UFC legend Matt Hughes, Elite XC World Champ Robbie Lawler, and top MMA wrestling coach Marc Fiore out of H.I.T. Squad in Granite City, Illinois. Herrig is a veteran of Chuck Norris' World Combat League and a winner on the Oxygen Channel's Fight Girls.
Iman "Mannie" Achhal holds an amateur MMA record of 4-0-1. She has fought in CageFest, Operation Octagon and the Barbarian Fight Club. An immigrant who led Morocco to escape an arranged marriage with a much older man and then endured homelessness before becoming a Fairfax County firefighter. Achhal describes fighting mixed martial-arts as "my American Dream". Acchal fights as part of Team Royce Gracie out of Capital Jiu-Jitsu, in Northern Virginia.
Women's MMA is a fast rising phenomenon in the world of sports. Two of the top ten most-viewed fights in the history of mixed martial arts were women's bouts aired on CBS in 2008, each drawing more than 5 million viewers. Its no secret to the fans that female fighters are skilled and willing to throw down.
"The UWC is about building the stars of tomorrow and we are proud to be promoting the first professional women's MMA match in the D.C. area," said UWC CEO S. Marcello Foran. "Both of these ladies are incredible talents and proven competitors who are ready to showcase their skills and that women's MMA is for real."
"We looked long and hard to 2nd exactly the right fighters to feature in D.C.'s first ever pro-women's MMA fight and I can't wait for the fans to see this one," continued Foran. "Felice has an incredible striking background and Iman is one of the gamest fighters you'll find anywhere."
The card will be co-headlined by the first ever UWC bantamweight world championship fight featuring Mike "The Hulk" Easton vs Chase "The Rage" Beebe and a light heavyweight battle between Antwain "The Juggernaut" Britt vs Jamal "The Suit" Patterson.
UWC: MAN "O" WAR will be held Saturday February 21, 2009 at the George Mason University Patriot Center Arena in Fairfax, Virginia. The event will feature a total of ten fights. Doors will open at 6:30pm and the first fight is at 7:30pm. Tickets for the event will be available via Ticketmaster. For more information, visit www.uwcmma.com.
General admission tickets are available for $35, $58.50, $78.50 and $128.50 (plus applicable service charges) and can be purchased through Ticketmaster by going online at www.ticketmaster.com, calling 703-573-SEAT, 202-397-SEAT or 410-547-SEAT or by visiting any Ticketmaster outlet, including the Patriot Center box office. Exclusive UltimateVIP ($500) and VIP ($250) ticket packages that include cage side seats, celebrity meet-and-greets, VIP hospitality, VIP invitation to all parties and more are available online at www.uwcmma.com or by sending an email to email@example.com. For group ticket sales information, call 202-661-5061. Visit www.uwcmma.com for more event details.
The Ultimate Warrior Challenge (UWC) is the Mid-Atlantic region's leader in providing fans with the best, most competitive and highest quality professional mixed martial arts (MMA) events. In addition to featuring elite fighters from the top MMA teams across the country, UWC also showcases and builds the careers of the many top pro fighters from the leading Virginia, DC and Maryland teams and gyms by giving them an opportunity and platform to challenge the very best in their highly competitive hometown area. UWC's fighters and events will serve as the catalyst for turning the Mid-Atlantic region into a powerful and highly-regarded MMA east coast destination. For more, please visit www.uwcmma.com.